You know the traditional story: A girl wanders through the woods, finds a house and makes herself at home. Then the owners, a family of bears, arrive home to find their chairs sat in, their food eaten, and their beds tried and occupied by the simple interloper. Erin J. Reifler’s Goldilocks: A New Musical takes the premise and reworks it as a modern tale of Milennial angst, sexual discovery, and acceptance. Playing as part of The Thespis Theater Festival, this Goldilocks is a frisky adventure tale of an innocent office drone cutting loose his binds and diving into the world of Drag. Like the Goldilocks of old, it exhibits a lack of foresight and ends up having to cut and run at the end.
The office drone is Paul (Morgan Bartholick). When his girlfriend Lisa (Laura Lebron Rojas) tells him she’s pregnant, the reality of his normal, boring life and the normal, boring future he imagines as inevitable come crashing down. He quits his job, wanders the town, and eventually ends up at a drag bar where he catches the eye of star performer Alexandra (Carson Rammelt). With the help of three “bears,” – or at least two bears and a “cub” – and a handful of lovely worker bee queens she plays the part of fairy godmother, lifting him out of his emotional hole and showing him how to bloom.
Reifler’s songs have everything you could want in a musical comedy. They’re fun, they’re catchy, and there’s no denying the impressive and abundant vocal talent gracing the tiny Hudson Guild Theater stage. From 60s-era girl group (and girl power) songs to sneeringly unapologetic, self-adulating ballads, the variety of styles is as impressive as the amount of humor infused into each number. Of particular note, the quartet of Rojas, Christina Ames, Dae Lettman and Kiara Hines make a great team, their clear, powerful voices layering in seemingly effortless harmony while delivering some wonderful backhanded lines.
On the drag side of the cast, Nigel Rowe does a wonderful job as the de facto MC, engaging the audience and inspiring giggles while looking absolutely fabulous. Where Bartholick is clearly a boy in a dress, Rammelt and Rowe make it look effortless. The bears, well, they’re a much-appreciated touch, like a leather glove, for anyone in the audience who enjoys a bit of masculine eye candy.
At only 45 minutes long, Goldilocks: A New Musical is half of a really great cabaret show. Only half because the point at which one would expect a pre-intermission cliffhanger actually resolves far too easily and quickly — so quickly in fact that when the lights came up it took several moments for the audience to understand that that was it. It was almost jarring, as if the deadline for the script hit and all the ends were just quickly pulled together without any discernable explanation or emotional truth. Would a woman, much less one pregnant and unsure whether she even wanted to have children, just smile and applaud and get over the shock of her partner having a meltdown and making several major life-changing decisions without her? All because he has decided he wants to be a drag performer and isn’t cheating on her like her friends suggest?
The kind of major moral and emotional questions that would make a second act sing (literally and figuratively) instead remain unresolved and forgotten. If Lisa’s discovery, her gasp and him tearing off the wig, were the end of the act, that would have been just right—a “To Be Continued” with actual oomph. After an intermission a second act could address things like whether they even want to have a baby, does he mean for this to be his career from now on, a lifestyle change, how to handle potential financial difficulties, even how to relate to each other now that one of them is open about who he really is.
As a composer and lyricist, Reifler clearly has the skills to continue the story. As it is, there is a lot to be desired in terms of script and character development. With more time and work, there’s potential to make this a real show. At the moment, however, it feels incomplete. Many of the actors and members of the creative team are either doing this in their summer break between college terms or are recent graduates, and while their inexperience shows, it’s also clear that there’s a lot of talent among them. If they keep at it, they may have something really good on their hands.
Photos: Danielle Perelman
Top photo: Right to left: Alex (Carson Rammelt) and Paul (Morgan Bartholick)
2. Paul (Morgan Bartholick) and ensemble
3. Right to left: Brian Graziani, Nigel Rowe, Carson Rammelt, Morgan Bartholick, Trevor Nalepka, and Stella Mensah
4. Lisa (Laura Lebron Rojas)
Goldilocks: A New Musical
Remaining Performances are at the Hudson Guild Theater at 441 West 26th Street, Saturday August 6 at 8:30 p.m., Sunday August 7 at 1 p.m.
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